Sunday, September 30, 2007

In yoga this morning, we did a lot of back bends; ustrasana (camel pose), half frog and full frog pose (what's the sanskrit for those?), dhanurasana (bow pose) and then urdvadanurasana (upward bow/wheel pose).

Yoga works with metaphors that are usually horrible cliches if made into art but often profound if experienced physically. When you do a back bend, you have to expose and open up the entire front of your body. This includes your chest and stomach. You have to expose your throat. You have to do all of this while your legs and the back of your torso hold you steady. This movement is the opposite of what most of us do all day as we hunch over our desks or steering wheels. It's also the opposite of what most living creatures do when they're defensive. Fetal position is safe--our vital organs are protected. Urdvadanurasana is an opposite of fetal position.

I like wheel pose, and camel--any of the upside down back bends. I struggle more with dhanurasana and frog, but I'm getting there. I like being upside down. I like dropping back into wheel. I feel brave, tough, and unusually bendy.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Unrelated, but the nun monster has a 30 foot purple tongue that strangles you from a long distance.

How did Colette get fat on shellfish? She said they were impossible to resist.

Unrelated, but I'm reading Barbara Henning's You, Me, and the Insects.

The beach was beautiful this afternoon. I'm trying to give in to the beauty of the beach. I'm convinced that experiencing beauty is bad for my poems. But I'm good at finding horrible things, even while at the beach on a Saturday.

Friday, September 28, 2007

These are the titles of the presentations my students gave today:

History of Kim chi from Ancient Times to Now
The Culture of Tipping and the California Gold Rush
I Love Cologne
Carnival Around the World
Brazilian Immigrants in Tokyo Suburbs

And I am going to make risotto. I don't know what kind. But some kind. Something different than just basic risotto w/mushrooms.

It rained this morning, so I drove to work. It was weird. But I got to wear a dress. That was nice.

While it was raining I listened to a report on public radio about how it's going to be another la nina dry winter.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Today I taught my ESL class in a fancy new lab room in the fancy new horticulture building at MiraCosta College. I don't want to go back to teaching in the crummy trailer! These rooms had lots of computers, and an overhead projector. We amused ourselves by zooming in on various neighborhoods in Tokyo and Cologne. It was kind of related to the topic at hand--rural urban migration. Tokyo has more than 10 million more people in it than Mexico City. Mexico City goes on forever. Tokyo is the largest city in the world. I want to spend some time there outside of the airport.

View Larger Map

Halfway through class, a man delivered flowers. There were buckets of dirt everywhere, and various bulbs and other plants, and also a bucket of star fruit. I wanted to eat one but didn't. I told my students what I know about the history of the cut flower industry in Encinitas.

Most of what I know about Tokyo comes from the airport, and my students, and the history classes I took as an undergrad. Once, because I was lucky and wearing nice clothes, I got to fly first class from Beijing to Tokyo and then Tokyo to New York. I sat next to a Japanese businessman and ate caviar--the only time I have eaten caviar (it was salty).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

This doesn't mean that you can only tell me nice things. But please, help me out a little.

I have this habit of obsessing on (or over? about?) disgusting and violent images. This can happen at any moment, but it especially happens when I'm lying on my back--in shavasana (which translates as "corpse pose"), for example. I still obsess over images from horror movies I saw when I was younger, and also a documentary about the Mai Lai Massacre I saw in high school. I'm particularly angry at a former coworker who told me an especially disgusting and violent and cruel story one day after lunch, and now it is in my brain forever.

I mostly obsess over images of horror that have anything to do with violence towards animals, girls, or women. In this way I am a lot like the news in the USA, except that I don't forget these images, they pile up and I think about them before I go to sleep, or when I wake up, or when I'm in shavasana, or before I prepare to do a back bend. I think about them when I'm hypersensitive to texture and can't quite filter and control my emotional reactions to things. Like today, for example.

I'm a bit touchy about this because in the past two or three months several people have tried to tell me stories about how their small bird or cat or little pet died a horrible death. Most small pets die because the people who buy them are oblivious assholes.

A lot of people who decide to have children are oblivious assholes, too.

So, please please don't tell me your stories of awful things that have happened--my body is full of them already.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

It is laundry day again

When I first met Mark, he lived with two budgerigars: a white and blue one named Mr. Billings and a green and yellow one named Sir Bayle. Bayle was a bit older than Billings. He was very sweet but not so bright. Billings was a bit more crafty. Budgies in general are smart, crafty birds.

One afternoon, Bayle was singing happily. Billings was perched on one foot a few inches from him, pretending to be asleep. As Bayle sang, Billings crept up to him, moving a few millimeters closer and then resuming his fake sleeping stance. Finally, when he was close enough to Bayle (who was still singing and quite oblivious), he kicked him! Bayle was surprised of course, and the two of them had a good play-fight.

Mark and I stopped getting budgies because we couldn't find anyone who had healthy birds. A budgie should live to be 7-10 years old, or even older. But because they are a small and inexpensive bird, they are over bred. But I love budgies! They are so cheerful and so tricky! Budgies like to party. I also think that Lester would enjoy the company--not in his own cage, of course, but in a separate cage next to his.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

I'm tired and and hypersensitive to texture.

But I am done with grading for the time being. And the bike is fixed.

Perhaps during my next underemployed month I'll take a basic bike mechanics course, that would be fun, and then I can do repairs myself the next time.

One of my ESL students complained that his host father gets overwrought about every single sports event on TV. The host father watches a lot of sports games, alone, and screams and cries at the TV. I actually completely relate to this behavior. Being able to scream and cry about something is great. I can't scream at my online teaching supervisor, so a baseball game is a good thing to yell about. It was the end of the class, and I didn't have time to explain the word "alienation."

Even if you don't get overwrought about sports, I bet you get overwrought about something else. I yelled explicatives this morning while trying to fit the bike in the car (we have no bike rack), and I was glad to yell explicatives. It was great.

This is a picture of of someone in Parsva Bhuja Dandasana, or dragonfly pose. I kind of did this asana on Wednesday.

When I'm doing yoga and my teacher says something about peace coming from within, I always think something like, "yes, but if someone attacks me, it is essential for me to get angry about it and punch them if necessary." This is one of the many places where I differ from the new age pseudo Tantric yoga philosophy I love so much: balance doesn't come from within. Balance is a complicated dynamic. If I am standing on my hands, I need to focus on both my body and the environment.

Everything is a complicated dynamic. Duh.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

We have no internet and the bike has a flat tire

Well, this weekend is the crunch time for my online classes. I have about 30 hours of grading, at least, at the end of every six week session. I am teaching two classes now. Mark and I went to the library today. The Carlsbad library is nice. Really nice. I am glad to be a "patron." Time Warner sucks.

Tomorrow I am not going to yoga. Instead, Mark and I are going to the IHOP that Mark ate at every Sunday morning the first fall he was here before I moved out (after IHOP, he would go to work). So Mark and I are going to go to that particular IHOP, and then to CSUSM where the internet isn't down (the library doesn't open until 1 tomorrow)! That part will be nice. The grading will not be nice. But then it will be over.

But I know I've been grading too much. I thought a sign that said "American Asphalt" was funny.

And before all that we are going to fix the bike. Cars smash into each other all the time, so there is always a lot of glass all over the road. I'm surprised only one tire is flat.

And speaking of not going to yoga, I can do dragonfly pose decently. All the weird arm balances seem to work for me.

Friday, September 21, 2007

History of the USA

Down South
Up North
Out West
Back East

Editing manuscripts, grading, partying

I wrote this line from Dear [Blank] I Believe in Other Worlds when I had recently graduated from college and hadn't experienced bureaucracy nearly as much as I have now:

"remember you are here because you love what's subsumed in bureaucracy"

I made steak for Mark and I. I haven't eaten steak in ages. I'm currently obsessed with grilled vegetables (squash and red peppers are a must, but eggplant, tomatoes, and mushrooms work well too) layered with fresh ricotta, and a kind of basil-sun dried tomato pesto. Yum yum yum. And very good with a basic steak with a basic pan sauce (shallots, wine, aromatics, etc).

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Grading. All weekend.

But after Monday, I won't be, because the weekend will be over.

Benny on the bus was very upset about the rain this morning, and he yelled at everyone: "Is it raining?! It's raining! It's raining!"

Lester was fussy today. He tried to nest in my hair. He needs his wings clipped, and I think he's feeling amorous. He was born in late November, so his father must have been feeling amorous this time of year.

There is a new kitty in the apartment complex. A small, old, grey kitty that sits in the sun and has a big voice. I made contact this afternoon after a run.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

On Monday night I dreamed I was presenting at an academic conference. My paper was well received, and the chair of the panel took me to a back room in a library and said, "congratulations!" and then duct-taped me up like a mummy. I think that Ron Silliman and Stan Aps were there, but they weren't on the panel. My paper was about Mina Loy and I was wearing a lampshade.

This dream sounds very hostile and scary and anti-academic, but I don't feel hostile to academia, at least not any more hostile than I do to a lot of other things. But in the dream, I wasn't scared, just puzzled: "how odd, they are duct-taping me up like a mummy. What do they expect will come of this?" It was ridiculous. Here I am looking dreamy:

When I came in to work on Tuesday, one of my coworkers told me that she'd dreamed that her boyfriend was cheating on her with me. She seems nice but I've never met her boyfriend.

Two of the other male teachers also reported having strange dreams, but they didn't go into any detail.

I asked my students if any of them had had strange dreams, and they said no and claimed to not remember their dreams, ever. I said "at least one of you must be lying."

Monday, September 17, 2007

Xbox games for my 9.5 year old sisters

So, as I mentioned yesterday, Dad, Mary and my sisters are moving to Adelaide, Australia. They'll be in Flower Mound, Texas (oh, the glorious suburbs north of Dallas...) from October to January, which means a big Graham family powwow in December. According to Mary, Michelle and Allison are begging for an Xbox. So now I need to think about Xbox games.

Blinx: The Time Sweeper sounds kind of interesting as does Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix.

They do read, but they read their own things. There are new fangled series for young girls that they read. I don't know what they are.

Sarah doesn't seem to care much about video games. I was thinking of getting her some kind of a girly fashion design program, if such a thing exists--she likes to play with paper dolls. I think she's already received knitting kits, etc, and I don't have enough money to get her a sewing machine. Besides, anything I give them will have to either stay in Flower Mound or get carted off to south Australia.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On my mind

1. So, Dad and Mary and my little sisters (Sarah, Michelle, and Allison) are not moving to Singapore anymore, they are moving to Adelaide. Dad will be with BH Billinton working on the Olympic dam project. So, for now, no more Bechtel. This is good. Now I can fantasize about Mark and I visiting them and then going to Tasmania. This isn't going to happen, but still.

2. What makes a dunkel a dunkle? I know that a dunkle is a darker wheat beer. Stout is a dark beer made from barley, or maybe oatmeal, like Samuel Smith's Oatmeal Stout, the beer that convinced me I could like beer.

3. This email message from an employer:
Fall Session I is quickly approaching. As we begin to prepare for our upcoming classes, it is important to the General Education Department that everyone is on the same page.

We therefore ask that you attend a special training hosted by one of our full time faculty members. Attendance will be taken at this session.

XXX XXXX invites you to participate as an attendee in this online training session.
I love how this email suggests that invitees are not on the same page as everyone else. It also suggests that the training session is "special." What does that mean? Created just for the people who are not on the same page as everyone else? I also love how we are invited to participate and also asked to participate. And then, in big bold letters, they tell us that they will be taking attendance.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

I had a classic Lorraine & Old Man encounter at D.G. Wills bookstore in La Jolla this evening. (We were there for Mark Salerno's reading--pictures and more on that later). A not so vaguely tipsy old man complimented me on my necklace before the reading started (squidglass from Etsy) and then took a picture of me during the reading with his digital camera.

Then, after the reading, he asked me "Are you really a poet? You look more like a cheerleader."

And I said that yes, I was really a poet. And then I joked and said that I was also a cheerleader and a beauty school dropout.

The Old Man's friend, another Old Man, turned to me and said, "really?" "

No," I said, "not really. I've never been to beauty school and I avoided cheerleading.

"No you didn't!" said the Old Man's friend.

"Yes, I did."

"No you didn't!" The Old Man said. "Did you go to school here in La Jolla?"

At this point, I was of course trying to leave the conversation, but I couldn't, because I was too sweet and polite. This is why I have Lorraine and Old Man encounters in the first place. I have a sweet face. I am sweet, kind of, except when I am hostile, but I am rarely hostile to the Old Man.

Anyway, I said that no, that I grew up overseas and in Maine. The Old Man knew that I spoke Chinese. I don't know why. I hadn't told him. He's a regular at D.G Wills, and a friend of the owner. The last time I was at the bookstore, I bought two used copies of Practical Chinese Reader II and II.

So I said I spoke French and Chinese and Spanish. And he told me in French that I was a very pretty young girl and I said thank you and left.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I'm a pseudo not so pseudo carlsbad local girl and don't bother

Dit by my window and look outside, wonder why the sun don't shine on me
What's wrong with you, you stupid child, don't you think that I'm the one you're waiting to see?
Don't talk too much 'cause she falls for the suckers, makes her feel everything is secure
Don't ever leave a footprint on the floor

Chorus: Don't bother with the local girls, don't bother with the local girls
They don't bother me

She's probably half-wit, she must be straight,
or bound to have a mother who knows nothing but hate
Don't want to love her, I'd rather knock her down
Standing at the busstop where she waits each morning
So isolated that she thinks that the army is the place where a man ought to be
Don't bother with them, they don't bother me


They got the walk, they got the talk, right down without a flaw
At 6:00 I got to stop my dreaming at the counter of the store


Without a doubt I got to intercept, must be time someone ran and shouted intheir head
You look all right in the cheap print dress,
but everytime you swish it 'round you make me disappear
I'm aware of exactly what I'm doing, making everything a mystery
Don't bother with it, it don't bother me

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Alex the parrot has passed away, unexpectedly, at 31 years old. Here's the New York Time's editorial and the press release from the Alex Foundation.

There's also a good article over at Seed Magazine that originally appeared in summer 2004 but which has been reposted in Alex's memory.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Coversation between Mark and I

- That's true.

- There's a lot that's true.

- That's true.

- Yeah, but I'm not it.

Things I want

From the immediately possible to the immediately impossible:

1. To scratch Lester under the chin
1a. To stand up
2. To get a glass of wine
3. A hand massage
3a. To be a the beach. Now. Watching dolphins play in the waves.
4. No more grading
4a. My hamstring attachment to never hurt again
5. Freedom from employment

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Last night's dream needs no interpretation

I was teaching grammar. I was wearing a purple and red clown wig, and a pair of those glasses that also include eyebrows, a mustache, and a large nose. I pointed to the chalkboard at diagrammed sentences with a six foot long wooden pointing stick and said things like, "now, students, see here..."

Monday, September 10, 2007

writing projects / toga parties

I've decided to post my "free writing" at See it Everywhere. So that I have something to post and can pretend that I have readers. And it's easier to post prose than the stuff with space and line breaks that I'm also writing now. So I will post prose there. I am trying to write prose that isn't about far away places, but instead is about nice people like people in my family saying and doing rather awful things to each other. It will take me a while to work up to that, though. I'm sure I will mention Lester a lot.


Yesterday while I was on the beach a large group of men and women in togas came by, screaming and yelling things like "show us your tits"

(though not to me, my beach outfit is carefully designed so that no one will bother me: one piece suit, large hat, dark sunglasses, weird book. And anyway I'm pretty hot, but I'm not a 17 year old girl in a bikini,

(thank G-d)


They were drunk. They might have been hashers.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Indulgent Weekend Lester Post / I've Finished Grading

Lester sings "salt peanuts" and says "peep peep peep" in his high yet gravely voice while hanging out on the newly revamped jungle gym.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Nate Pritts on H_NGM_N

Mr. Nate Pritts sent a very thoughtful response via email, which I'm posting here, with his permission.


Thanks for reading H_NGM_N so carefully, first & foremost, & for your words about it on your blog. To me, writing & publishing poetry is an imminently social act – almost one of promotion, where the implicit statement is “Read this.” To proclaim anything else would be disingenuous. So, yes, building a community is one of the most worthwhile things I can think to do. And coming across writings like yours is one of the real benefits to what I do.

And it’s funny how different communities overlap – I’ve met a lot of writers through our shared online gig, people who pulled me out of the listserv to say they’d seen H_NGM_N or my work somewhere, or who I’ve tagged because I’ve seen theirs. It’s great!

I’m writing this, really, to keep this dialogue going because even where you say you are being grumpy about Clay’s remark, you’re really just talking it out. I mean, you seem to take issue with his position (labeling it maybe redundant or maybe too conveniently sweeping?).

You know, I really think it’s impossible to judge fashion. Tony Hoagland has this great essay called something like “The Skittery Poem of the Moment” & my first read of that title made it sound as if he was proclaiming the jumpy poem as the current poem du jour. Now (I may be wrong) I read the “of the moment” part of that to indicate how the poem is grounded, an in process record.

So with that out there, I do think Clay’s statement has tremendous worth – both to him, to readers (of that particular review & those potential readers of Orlen’s work), &, yes, to Orlen himself.

Upon receiving my MFA from Warren Wilson College, I was given a diploma & a big carved walking stick. The idea behind this, related to me by the program’s director Pete Turchi, but possibly unverifiable in its accuracy, is that in the big dark forest of literary giants, the sticks help us to bang against the trunks as a way of finding our path.

I’ve always interpreted this a little violently. At times, I’ve taken my stick & tried to use it like an axe to hack down some trunks that stood in my way (I could name names). What I mean is that I think, in an individual’s aesthetic development, we need something to work against.
Sometimes, it even helps to think that “they’re all against us.” I think Clay is right to perceive that in certain communities (H_NGM_N may be one of them), “narrative poetry” (of the type Richard Hugo might recognize) is “out of fashion.” So (I’m projecting on behalf of my buddy Clay), his statement is grounded in his own deep appreciation for Orlen’s project which is similar to his own & which (despite Clay’s astounding publication record) might be seen as having few friends today.

But I would guess that your biggest objection comes from these kind of pronouncements – we all cut our hair, or narrative is or is not in fashion. I’m with you that these kinds of statements have the effect of dulling the vitality of what’s really going on around us. I still want to say that what Clay writes is worthwhile because it is his record of what is happening now.

He feels that there is not a lot of narrative poetry out there today; other people may feel oppressed by the weight of so much narrative poetry. OK. He said/She said. But finally and most importantly, his statement is one of acceptance, of realizing that everybody has something to learn from everyone. Meaning, every one of the factions existing in poetry these days would really be sorry if the ones they were working against disappeared. How boring would that be?

This stuff is all kind of nebulous & maybe it shows that I’m uncomfortable talking it out. But thanks again for unknowingly prodding me to work my brain this morning. You’re the best!


(I would have posted this as a comment but I don't blog.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

I bought my plane tickets to the east coast.

I'm flying in and out of DC, and then will go up to New York to read at Segue with Tao Lin. It will be good to see people that I haven't seen in a while, and to meet Tao and hear him read, since I haven't done either. This isn't until October but I'm thinking about it because I haven't been on the east coast since I left. Also, because I always think three months ahead, I'm really thinking about December now.

It has cooled down. It=the weather. Does weather cool? I guess the temperature does.

In San Diego, it isn't the temperature outside that matters so much, but the temperature inside. Outside it was in the upper 80s, which isn't that hot, but because the buildings here aren't made for temperatures above 75, it was hot inside. Very hot. In the winter, it is cold inside. I don't turn on the heat because it is an old heating unit that is basically like a very large stove burner--it's creepy. Anyway, after spending time in San Diego, I've become more sensitive to heat, but not the cold. I don't know what it means that my temperature point of reference is inside and not outside. This is like using a treadmill workout to describe a walk outside.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

In part because of some recent conversations on Mark's blog and

in part because of a few critical projects

and in part because I'm now adjusted enough to the fact that I live in San Diego county to start trying to make sense of some of the poetic projects of my peers

I have been reading the current issue of H_NGM_N. Nate Pritts (the editor) and I both work for the same online tutoring company, which is where I initially "met" him. Nate's interest in creating poetic community through the magazine seems evident, and he talks about this in "Some Notes about H_NGM_N," which acts as an introduction to Issue 6. Most magazines create communities, even if this isn't an explicit goal that they have, so I like the fact that Nate seems aware that this is part of what editors do.

Issue 6 seems well edited. There is an entire section on the poet Steve Orlen that includes memoirs from students, a review of his New and Selected, and a kind of poetics statement by Orlen. I had heard of Steve Orlen before I read this section, but I know know more about him. I'm not going to go out and buy his New and Selected, but I appreciate the cohesiveness of this section.

I'm about to get a bit grumpy. If you only want to read what I liked, go to the bottom of this post.

Something that Clay Matthew's says in his review of Steve Orlen helped solidify a few things for me: "If narrative poetry is out fashion these days, I’m thankful Orlen didn’t get the memo, or rather chose to ignore it, because both the new and old poems here carry on the tradition of the storyteller—of one poet sharing his tale with the rest of us."

Let me try to clarify what this clarifies.

Ann Landers once said something like this: In the 60s we all grew our hair long and protested against war and the government.

No we didn't, Ann Landers. You certainly didn't.

So, when did narrative poetry go out of fashion? Whose sense of fashion?

My sense is that we Youth of Today (YOT) who write poetry like to feel like we're rejecting and/or resurrecting narrative. Depending on who you talk to, narrative was never sufficiently rejected, so we need to resurrect oulipo and procedural work, or else narrative was too easily rejected, and we need to return to narrative.

So, the rejecting/non rejecting thing is probably a perennial conversation now, similar to a form/content argument that resurfaces every so often. But I'm not saying that just because these debates are perennial means that they aren't important or that they are all the same. Every generation, I suppose, needs to come to their conclusions on their own. I guess.

On to the poems that I thought were interesting or promising. My disclaimer: I liked reading these issues, and my notes on the poems I liked are just that. Notes:

Brent Pallas' poems were interesting. They were persona poems of a sort, but their diction was varied and often complex, playing around with Victorian scientific syntax.

I really wanted to like Jim Goar's work from 33 poems before sunrise. He's working to connect space on the page to actual material space. There were some good moments.

Christopher Rizzo's sonnets written with found language viewed (or heard) on a bus ride had some good moments, as well.

I was interested in Viola Lee's poems. There were moments I liked a lot: "You are unlike oatmeal in the morning." Looking back on the lines I really like, I like all the negative ones. Writing poems that seek to understand self relative to the objects in one's environment is interesting, and the idea that one would address inanimate objects is also interesting. I'm not sure how I felt about the repeated lyric "you" address.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Happy Day of Labor

We had a good party!

I like having parties that people have fun at. See the post below.

I don't have to teach ESL tomorrow or Tuesday, so I am going to work on a few typesetting and design projects.